Seniors agenda: actions speak louder than words

The B.C. Council of Seniors today welcomed Premier Christy Clark’s promise to improve services for seniors, but cautioned that actions speak louder than words.

“For the last decade, this government has implemented a ‘seniors’ agenda’ that has created misery for thousands of elderly citizens in our province,” said Art Kube, President of the 80,000 member Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. (COSCO).

“As a senior minister and deputy to Gordon Campbell, Premier Clark had a direct role in undermining the services that helped seniors to live with dignity and independence in their own homes. The harmful effects of ten years of mean-spirited actions can’t be undone with warm and fuzzy platitudes.”

Kube pointed out that since 2002, the B.C. Liberal government has:

  • Closed more than 3,000 long-term care beds, and 11 community hospitals.
  • Imposed significant cuts in home support, and reduced funding to volunteer agencies that provide services to isolated seniors, such as Meals on Wheels.
  • Almost doubled MSP premiums and reduced the coverage provided.
  • Made prescription drugs more expensive by increasing user fees and imposing income testing for Pharmacare.
  • Increased the cost of residential care to the highest levels in Canada, while providing the lowest standard of care. (According to Statistics Canada, B.C. has the lowest rate of paid hours of care per resident.)
  • Moved frail seniors, against their wishes, away from their spouses and friends to care facilities in other communities.
  • Disbanded the provincial Seniors Advisory Council.

“Retired British Columbians have been struggling with the effects of the government’s seniors’ agenda for a long time, and it has not been a pleasant experience,” said Kube.

“By cutting community-based services, they have made it much more difficult for seniors to stay in their own homes. At the same time, they’ve made it more difficult to find residential care, and if you do manage to find a bed, it’s now horribly expensive,” he said.

“Today’s seniors have a lot to contribute. They are society’s most experienced citizens. A positive seniors’ agenda should be planned with seniors, not imposed on seniors.

“I call on the government to take the time to really consult with seniors – to have an in-depth conversation, not just a photo op, about maximizing our continuing contribution to our province.

“By planning with seniors, not for seniors, we can develop strategies to create age-friendly communities, improve income security in retirement, focus on independent living and prevention, to stop ageism in health care, and improve home care and home support,” said Kube.

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